Area school stadium lights burn bright for season darkened early

Area school districts powered up their stadium lights Monday night for spring sports and senior high school years shut down early due to the coronavirus.

Across Butler and Warren counties and much of Ohio school leaders lit up their stadiums at 8:20 p.m. – which is 20:20 military time – to honor not only school athletes sidelined by sports cancellations but all the high school seniors of the class of 2020.

The stadiums are the centerpieces of many public school communities in Ohio and their tall towers of lights are visible from afar.

Word came down from Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) officials hours earlier Monday after Ohio Governor Mike DeWine ordered the cancellation of in-person classes for all schools in the state for the remaining current school year.

“For weeks, the OHSAA has communicated with schools that spring sports would be canceled if school facilities were closed,” said Jerry Snodgrass in a statement from the OHSAA executive director.

“In addition to facilities not being opened, it would be impossible to ensure the health and safety of all individuals and support personnel involved in practices and contests at all member school,” said Snodgrass.

Local school athletic officials said the 20-minute lighting ceremonies were glowing reminders of a season first delayed, then lost to coronavirus.

“This is not what any of us wanted, but it has became our reality today,” said Scott Kaufman, athletic director of Lakota West High School in West Chester Twp.

“It was heartbreaking when we delayed (spring sports). It was even more heartbreaking when the official decision was finally made.”

Monroe Schools lit up their stadium and did a video from a drone high overhead, posting it on social media.

“We wanted our student’s to know how proud of them we are for the way they’ve handled the adversity that they’ve had to face over the last month,” said Eric Silverman, athletic director for the Butler County school system.

At Fairfield Schools, city police cruisers joined in the ceremonial lighting, shining their flashing lights next to the district’s athletic stadium.

Billy Smith, superintendent for Fairfield, said the lighting event reflects not only the community’s mourning of the loss of a sports season but also for all the other memorable events – such as prom, senior days, awards banquets – high school seniors have lost.

“Our seniors are missing out on making the memories of a lifetime right now, and I’m so proud of our staff members and all of their efforts to make this school year the best that it can be given the circumstances,” said Smith.

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